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Behavioral Management Tips for Preschool Children

Has your preschool-aged child been diagnosed with ADHD? If so, a health care provider may recommend starting behavioral management, which includes parent training, as soon as possible. A lot of brain development is happening during these years, making it a good time for your child to learn positive behaviors.

When it comes to treatment for preschool and kindergarten-aged children, the American Academy of Pediatrics calls for behavioral treatments first and medication only when needed.

“Comprehensive treatment is behavioral management, working with the parents on behavioral strategies, working with the daycare centers or preschools on thinking about the child's needs,” Mark Mahone, PhD, explained to parents during the Ask the Expert webcast ADHD in Preschool Children. “What we have learned over the last 50 years is that the most effective forms of behavioral management involve reinforcing appropriate behavior and not reinforcing inappropriate behaviors.”

Parent training helps you learn techniques to manage your child’s behavior and later to teach your child to manage his own behavior. The following are some common tips:

  • Keep a routine. It helps your child to know what to expect during the day.
  • Be aware of your child’s physical needs and moods. She will have more trouble with her behavior if she is hungry, tired, or frustrated. Plan ahead by carrying healthy snacks and scheduling naps.
  • When making requests, look your child in the eyes (eye contact) to make sure that he is paying attention and understands what you want him to do.
  • Keep requests and commands simple. Multi-step requests are less likely to be followed.
  • Role play with your child any activities you plan to do later that day. Giving your child a chance to practice her behavior before getting into situations helps her understand what behavior is expected.
  • Use a timer your child can see to help him know how much time there is before changing activities or how long he has to complete a task.

Ask your child’s pediatrician or health care provider to recommend a specialist in early childhood ADHD that can help you develop additional skills to manage your child’s behavior. For more information, visit our website at Preschoolers and ADHD.

This article appeared in ADHD Weekly on February 17, 2016.

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